I’m in a jacket, Rudy, of course, maintains his jolliness in shorts and a t-shirt despite the mid-50s brisk Denver air. He curses my pleas to stop at this Chipotle, our flight back to California looming. I promise him this location is not like the rest.
A few weeks prior, I had wrote a piece about Chipotle’s curious and unorganized implementation of alcohol. Some locations have beer and margaritas, some don’t, some let you drink as much as you want, some have a buzz-killing two-drink maximum. In my coverage, I got wasted at several So Cal locations and learned that their margaritas are above average, their beer is bottled (but well-curated) and their wait staff has absolutely no fucking clue how to deal with customers asking for booze.
My feet are starting to feel the weight of the weed gummy bear I ate about 30 minutes prior.
“I’m not drinking anything,” Rudy reminds me, physically hungover from the night before, his nipples like two water faucets protruding through his T-shirt. “Get what you need and let’s bounce. I’m gonna get some tacos.”
I walk through the double doors and am greeted by a chic college-town friendly ice chest filled with cans of Modelo and juice. The stomach-level bin has BEER engraved in a hip font-face, half-empty bottled sangria chilling on the counter-top behind it, and a drinks menu sitting atop what looks like a frozen margarita machine.
My alcoholic boner swells at the sight of the whirring yellow-green frozen mixture sloshing through its circular window.
It’s booze-first here at this Chipotle, and it’s almost an immediate answer to my questions from months prior:
“Why doesn’t Chipotle promote their alcohol options?”
Well, Elie, they’ve completely put their balls on the table with this one.
Born of Colorado sensibility, it’s fair that Chipotle would trial this booze-first location in Denver, 6th and Broadway to be exact. Maybe still reeling from the norovirus scare or people not having learned that there are viable booze options at Chipotle, the place was deserted. The dining area and outside patio of this place looked like it could hold hundreds of folks, but we were the only dudes there at 11:30am on a Tuesday.
New Sombra Mezcal all-natural frozen margarita? Check. Sangria made with organic ingredients, poured out of a bottle and served over ice with lemon and orange garnish? Sure. Beer on tap brewed just for Chipotle? Pour me some.
Everything I ordered was also interwoven into the location’s DNA. Above the drinks menu board sat a well-lit cabinet that housed a row of tequila, mezcal and sangria bottles intermingled with IKEA potted plants. Glowing neon signs touted MARGARITAS, Sangria and BEER. It was gaudy by design standards, but not completely divergent of Chipotle aesthetic.
Rudy and I pulled up chairs at a table outside, a crime to pass up outdoor eats and libations when available. I quickly dove into the margarita. The mezcal was pungent, damn near revolting on my sober tongue. I put it down, longing for the Suaza margarita this one had replaced. Maybe it’s my disdain towards mezcal, but if my remedial tastebuds are any indicator, I don’t know how other customers will like this.
The bottled sangria is fucking delicious. It’s crispy, airy, refreshing and transportive to wherever I last had a sangria. Looking across at Rudy’s smug face, I forgot I was in Denver for a moment. I reach for another sip, my gummy-bear induced hand slaps the sangria by accident and sends the precious liquid across the table. Fuck.
I gather myself and swig a healthy dose of the draft beer. For $3.75 a pour, I’m pumped on the flavor — although I’m longing for a cold glass. Drinking out of a dinky plastic cup makes me feel like I’m smuggling beer at a high school football game. I can’t pinpoint the flavors in this thing, mainly because I’m not a fuckin’ beer sommelier, but it’s good and I’ll cherish the sips I have left.
With such disappointment in the frozen margarita, I take it upon myself to play mixologist. I pour what remains of my sangria into what remains of the margarita and out comes a visually arresting cocktail. The gummy bear in my veins tells me this moment is beautiful, so I give a cheers to this new Chipotle.
I hope people like you.